(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Thursday night’s come-from-behind win for the Red Sox was amazing, series altering, life changing and whatever other hyperbole that the national media is throwing around these days. So why is it that I feel like Teddy KGB, so unsatisfied?  Boston’s win to force a game 6 was dramatic, but it’s not like they just won the series. Tampa Bay still holds a 3-2 series lead with the next two games at Tropicana Field. Don’t get me wrong, I feel infinitely better that Boston was finally able to string a few hits together, and David Ortiz had some resemblance to his 2004 version, but there is a lot of baseball left to be played.

Going into tonight’s game, I really wish that Josh Beckett’s ERA was sub-10.00 this postseason. I also wish that James Shields threw his shoulder out in June when his left cross missed Coco Crisp by three feet. But I guess we’ll just have to deal with this match up. Shields is the one guy on the Rays staff that scares me. He didn’t get his “Big Game” moniker from his deer hunting ability. This guy is a stud that rises to the occasion and relishes the pressure.

Shields is going up against some guy that has a striking resemblance to Josh Beckett, but without the 96 mph fastball and the pinpoint control. There is obviously something wrong with Beckett. He’s going to need to channel his inner Curt Schilling and make the adjustment from strikeout pitcher to a control pitcher that keeps the hitters guessing. But Beckett is a fierce competitor. Whichever version of him shows up tonight is going to be pissed off and spitting nails. This will be fun to watch.

As for the hitters on both teams, now that Boston has seen how productive it can be when they get consecutive hits, I really hope that they try and do that again. It was fun to see them scoring runs again. The Rays, on the other hand, are obviously taking steroids and corking their bats. There is no way that they can hit that many home runs. I’m calling for George Mitchell to reopen his investigation.

But seriously. Rays players have to be thinking that they have just woken a sleeping giant. They had Boston on the ropes and let them back in it. It will be interesting to see if the Rays hitters are squeezing their bats a little tighter and trying for the long ball tonight while playing in front of the home crowd.

Up a touchdown in the 7th inning. Champagne on ice. The smell of the World Series in the air. Only to blow it.  This has the potential to crush the confidence of a young ballclub. This is a must-win game for Tampa. With a potential game seven match up of baseball’s best story, Jon Lester, vs. headcase and chronic spitter Matt Garza. This is the biggest game in the history of Tampa Bay baseball. Again.

The Rays are still in the driver’s seat, but they have to be keeping a close eye on the rearview mirror.

End of the Road

It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

After a career that has spanned 17 years and included 3 World Series titles, 6 All Star Games, 11 postseason wins, countless opinions, and one bloody sock, Curt Schilling may have thrown his last pitch in a Major League uniform.

But it wasn’t supposed to end like this.

Guys like Schilling don’t just walk away from the game with an injury. They’re supposed to walk off the field for the last time during the seventh game of the World Series, to an adoring crowd and a standing ovation.

A lot has been said over the years about Schilling’s history of having an opinion on pretty much every subject. Words like egomaniac, self-indulgent, and blowhard have often preceded his name, but I always took Schilling’s view on things with a grain of salt. I couldn’t care less who he thought should be our next President. I cared about his pitching. And when it mattered, there have been few pitchers over the years that could elevate their game the way Curt Schilling did.

Schilling will always be remembered by Red Sox Nation for the bloody sock game during the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, and for the leadership he showed in helping the Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years. Those games were obviously incredible and will never be forgotten, but the Schilling game that stands out for me was in 2005. Keith Foulke had gone down with an injury, and suddenly Boston was in need of a closer. Schilling putting the team ahead of himself, volunteering to work out of the bullpen for his first time in fourteen years. Of course, the experiment didn’t last, and Schilling got shelled. But he put the team ahead of his personal statistics, and my opinion of him changed that day.

I don’t think Curt Schilling has the career numbers to make it to the Hall of Fame. He never won the Cy Young award and hasn’t won 300 games, both of which tend to be the main criteria for induction. But if there is a wing in Cooperstown that rewards heart, determination, and leadership, then Schilling would be in on the first ballot.

And who knows, we may one day see #38 join the list along side 1 4 8 9 27 42.

A blessing in disguise

Yesterday when I read that Curt Schilling had an injured shoulder and was going to miss the first half of the season, I was pretty worried. I was hoping that Schill was going to have a solid final season in the major leagues and make a push for making the Hall of Fame someday. I was concerned that the Red Sox would miss his leadership. I wondered how the Red Sox rotation would fare with two young guns assuming a very important role. I was wondering if Theo Epstein blew it by not making a serious run at Johan Santana.

But then I came to my senses.

The Red Sox had the best rotation in baseball last year in spite of the elementary performance of Schilling. Schill came into spring training looking like a poor man’s Joba Chamberlain, and it showed with his injury. The once dominant fast-baller had morphed into a finesse pitcher with a weight problem. Hitters were no longer intimidated by him, which was evident by his 9-8 record. He couldn’t blow the pitches past the hitters and resorted to nibbling the corners. I was on the edge of my seat every time Schilling pitched last year, because he was always one pitch away from serving up a three run home-run. I had big hopes for Schilling this year. He seemed motivated to come to camp this year in better shape and erase the memories of his disappointing 2007 season.

With Schilling missing at least the first half of the season, this is the opportunity Clay Buchholz needs to prove why he is Boston’s top pitching prospect. Buchholz was dominant during his short stint with the Sox last year, but being that he is only 24 years old and still developing, the Sox will want to limit his innings this season. So maybe he can assume the #5 spot in the rotation until Schilling comes back, then go to a six-man rotation for the playoff run. This will give everyone a little rest and get them ready for the playoffs.

I still really like Boston’s rotation this year. Beckett will be Beckett and should chalk up another 20 wins. Dice K, with a season of experience under his belt, should take his game up a notch. Wakefield is always good for at least 12 wins. Then we have the always improving Jon Lester, and the wild card Clay Buchholz. If any of these guys falter, Boston will have some options. Kyle Snyder and Julian Tavarez are always available to start. There some kids in the minors worthy of a call-up. And if all else fails, Theo will make the deal to shore up the rotation.

We all know pitching wins games. We’ll soon see if the Sox have enough to defend their title.

The Eight Million Dollar Man

Curt Schilling has been called a lot of things over the years. Arrogant, blowhard, and egomaniac, just to name a few. But after Tuesday’s announcement it’s time to add one more: loyal.
It was announced that Schilling signed a one-year, $8 million deal (plus incentives) to remain a member of the World Champion Boston Red Sox.

Even at the ripe old age of 41, Schilling was the cream of the crop for free agent starting pitchers. From day one of the free agent signing period Schilling was being heavily recruited by several teams. His name seemed to come up in every rumor, with teams like the Phillies and the Astros being the most vocal. It was a no-brainer that Schilling could have guaranteed himself a 2-year deal in the range of $25-30 million in guaranteed money to go play for another team. In this day and age of athletes holding out to squeeze out every dime from team owners, and players more concerned with the name on the back of the jersey instead of the name on the front, it’s refreshing when someone puts the team first and wants to play for a winner.

One more year of Schilling in the clubhouse will provide a huge boost in the development of Boston’s young pitchers. Now Clay Buchholz won’t be forced into the starting rotation, and can continue to mature as a pitcher.

What I especially like about this contract is that Schilling was the one to insert a weight clause. After coming in to Spring Training in 2007 like he was on a tour of New England all-you-can-eat buffets during the winter, Schilling was embarrassed about the scrutiny about his weight and the fact that he broke down early in the season. With this new deal, Schilling is going to show baseball fans why he is one of the games great competitors and will end his career on his terms.
Curt Schilling will continue to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, mentor to the young staff, and unofficial Red Sox press secretary this year, all this for the low, low price of $8 million.

Maybe it’s time to throw away the old list used to describe Schilling and start a new one.
I think this one can start with “Winner.”

TheFoulLine.com Hot Stove Report

I love watching Major League Baseball. Some people complain that the 162-game season is too long, but not me. I think they should make it 200 games a year. Baseball is the one sport that can deliver for seven months straight. People say that baseball is boring, but turn on ESPN during the baseball season and you will consistently see the best highlights in all of sports. Huge home runs, acrobatic catches, collisions at the plate.

Think about it: the NFL is fun to watch, but if they were to add more games to the schedule, teams would be so beat up when the playoffs started that nobody would want to watch. Not to mention, everyone already knew the Patriots were going to win the Super Bowl in week one.

This brings me to the other “major”sport, the NBA. Remember when basketball was must-see TV? Back when Jordan, Bird, Magic, Barkley and the Mailman were playing, basketball was worth watching. Now the NBA has turned into which team can dunk the most, or who can shoot the most three-pointers. Bring back some bounce passes and some quality team defense and I might tune in.

There used to be another major sport involving pucks and sticks that I really enjoyed. But then came the lockout, the stupid Versus Network contract, and the Anaheim Ducks vs. Ottawa Senators Stanley Cup final. And just like that, hockey became irrelevant.

The other thing that makes baseball a year-long sport is the Hot Stove League. The World Series ended 10 days ago and we are still reading about MLB in the papers. Why is this? Because every baseball fan in the offseason channels their inner George Costanza and thinks that they can be the General Manager for their favorite team. I certainly do. I have already worked out deals in my head that would add Johan Santana, Alex Rodriguez, and Torii Hunter to the Red Sox. Of course, the Sox payroll would be $300 million a year, but it’s not my money, so who cares. Speculating which players are going where and what your team is going to look like for the upcoming season makes following baseball fun year round.

Which brings me to some quick Red Sox Hot Stove Notes:

  • It looks like Curt Schilling will be signing a one-year deal with Boston. I am really happy about this for a couple of reasons. First of all, Schilling was a solid pitcher once he got himself in shape. Secondly, this gives him another year to tutor Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Finally, after being a big part of two Red Sox World Series Championship teams, he should retire as a Red Sox.
  • We all know that Jacoby Ellsbury will be the starting centerfielder for Boston next year. I would like to see the Red Sox get a good, young backup catcher for Coco Crisp.
  • I think that there is a 50/50 chance of Mike Lowell coming back. I don’t see the Sox giving him a four-year deal. I think it’s going to be either 3 years/$40 million for Lowell or the Sox make a trade for Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins.
  • There are rumors that Boston is looking into acquiring Johan Santana. If there is any chance to get this guy, give the Twins anyone they want. Beckett and Santana heading up a rotation would be scary.
  • Also, Dylan “Just Call Me Jacoby Ellsbury” Hamilton went 4 for 4 in his men’s softball league game last night and was one single away from hitting for the cycle. If he keeps this up, Boston will have to seriously consider inviting him to Spring Training.

Worth the wait

They say good things come to those who wait. Boston fans remained patient even when down three games to one. After being outplayed by Cleveland for three straight games, the Red Sox have battled back and have forced game seven.

Curt Schilling pitched a gutsy game last night (7 innings, 6 hits, 2 ER, 5 strikeouts, 0 walks), improving his postseason record to 10-2. He got into some trouble early in the game but was able to execute his pitches and get out of the jam. I’m not sure what I think of the 90-mph-fastball-Schilling. He doesn’t have that extra gear to blow the pitch by the hitter. I find myself on the edge of my seat when he tries to pitch inside to lefties. It seems he either gets the batter to pop up or hit a monster home run to right field. But to his credit, he has come to grips with his new style of pitching. He knows he’s not the strikeout pitcher of past seasons, so he relies on out-thinking the hitters. He was just what Boston needed last night. A big performance from a big game pitcher.

While we are still on the subject of waiting, there was a J.D. Drew sighting last night. After a long season of Drew performing below expectations, he blew open the game with a first-inning grand slam, 3 hits and 5 RBIs. This is exactly what Drew needed to get a clean slate from Boston fans for next season. Last night he was worth every penny spent on him. Suddenly, $14 million a year doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.

All series long, people have been saying Boston needs other players besides the big three to step up. Last night it finally happened. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis were awesome at the top of the order, getting big hits and setting the plate for Boston’s big hitters. If these two continue this hot streak, I don’t see anyone beating them. The Sox even got some production from their 8 and 9 hitters. Wonderboy Jacoby Ellsbury further enamored himself with Boston fans with an RBI and his all-out hustle. Even Julio Lugo contributed with a big double and two RBIs.

Everything seems to be clicking with Boston right now: Two quality starts in a row from their pitchers. The offense appears to be out of its funk. Heck, even Eric Gagne pitched a decent inning. But like Winston Wolfe said in Pulp Fiction, “Let’s not start sucking each other’s dicks quite yet.” The Indians are a good team. You can be sure that they are going to leave it all out on the field tonight.

Thefoulline.com baseball news and notes:

  • I have a lot of respect for Terry Francona. He really cares for and trusts his players. He gives them every opportunity to succeed. He catches a lot of flack for his loyalty to his players, but his guys play hard for him. Let’s hope Boston management does the right thing and locks him up with a long-term contract.
  • Before game 6, Fausto Carmona stated that he won’t be intimidated by anyone, especially not Curt Schilling. Wow! Way to back that up. You really showed them. Another bad playoff performance. He is turning into the skinny version of C.C. Sabathia.
  • Travis Hafner is in a bad funk right now. He hasn’t had a hit in a couple of games and really appears out of sorts. Maybe it’s because his helmet is crushing his huge head. Have you seen this guy’s melon? His head makes his helmet look like the ones little kids eat ice cream out of.
  • Coco Crisp has played his last game in a Boston uniform. He will be dealt in the offseason. Thanks Coco, you were fun to watch play centerfield.
  • Maybe Cleveland shouldn’t have printed all of those 2007 World Series T-shirts when they were up 3-1.
  • I really hope Boston resigns Mike Lowell. If they decide not to, I can see them ignoring A-Rod and going after the Florida Marlins’ Miguel Cabrera.

That’s all for now. Huge game tonight. Let’s keep this thing rolling.

Go Sox!